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What does it mean to love a place?
Over the past four years, I have had countless adventures as I explored the natural world of Bardland. I could barely believe my eyes the first time I ran down Cruger Island Road and found the Tivoli Bays. And the wonder of discovery has not stopped since. This place is aesthetically beautiful and a sensory wonderland. But to me, the true magic comes from the creatures that call this place home. As I met and watched each one of them, I began to realize that they have wondrous personalities and quirks that I could never have realized from a photograph or an illustration. The more I watched them go about the simple act of living, the more I began to see that their lives allowed me look deep within my own self. They helped me to see things that I could not without them. And as they changed me, I began to feel connected to them in a way that has given me strength and courage. They give me a sense of being intertwined within something so much greater than myself, something to hold onto, something to believe in. I love them for this.
It is my attachment to these animals that makes me so fond of the place in which we coexist. Bardland is the backdrop to all of our encounters and the setting of my personal growth. Bardland is my place, the world in which I am awed by the turkey vultures soaring above me. It is where owls lullaby me to sleep and yellow warblers serenade me as I walk. It is where my heart breaks from deer dying in ditches and bursts as it watches a bedraggled snow goose find a family.
Yet even though I call Bardland mine, I could never have created this exhibition on my own. This is a true collaboration between myself and the natural world around me. The stories within the books I have written and illustrated are written not only by me but also by the creatures whose lives have touched me so deeply. They are my way of seeking to understand the full significance of our encounter. While the art displayed in the gallery is meant to provide the viewer a glimpse at the world as I see it, the books are meant to relate the personal message I have learned from each animal. After using paper to relate these stories, I then took the same material to bring the characters in each book to life as sculptures. The body of each sculpture is created solely from paper and tape. I affectionately like to think of them as creatures “drawn to life.” While they look very much like their real-life counterparts, there is a piece of myself in each of them- I cannot help but emphasize how endearing I find screech owls or my perceived temperament of the snow goose! Finally, the environments of each sculpture- the trees, for instance- are elements of the natural world itself, completely unaltered so that Bardland and I are working together to compose each sculpture in its entirety.
It is my goal to try to communicate just how incredible these creatures really are. If I can convince even one person to walk out of this gallery, take a walk through Bardland, and really look at the wildlife all around him, I feel I will have succeeded.
What does it mean to love a place? Look around you.
 Bardland- Area around Bard College bordered by Palatine Park, Germantown (Northern boundary), Ferncliff Forest, Rhinebeck (Southern boundary), Pine Plains (Eastern boundary) and the Hudson River (Western boundary).
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Baal, Christina Marie, "Finding Bardland: What does it mean to love a place?" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 265.